Bedtime Update

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I think about my blog on most days but, as you can see from the 3 month+ gap, I don’t do anything about it. Things feel like both too much and too little at the same time, mixed up. I think about how when I started this blog I had such a specific focus, and now my focus seems more vague. There are a lot of reasons.

I’ve been struggling with going to sleep lately. My anxiety has been kicking in again, in the sorts of ways I always used to hear my friends talk about but never personally experience myself. I was always really good at sleep, even when things were not great. Maybe that fades when you get older, who knows. I have a schedule that allows for this, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I wonder sometimes if the indulgence makes it worse.

Still, I decided maybe I would try something new. I thought maybe I would try writing some before bed, maybe it would relax me. Two birds? Who knows.

I guess tonight I will just do a generalized update on my life and then perhaps I’ll do something more organized tomorrow.

The first grad school application is almost complete. I only need to edit another 500 words, scan in some paperwork, and pay them $85 for the privilege of applying to their organization. Then… there will be one more, but you know. Progress.

I quit my second job. It wasn’t working for me in a lot of ways and it wasn’t paying nearly enough to be worth the stress it was causing. I feel good about the decision, although money would certainly be nice. My current job at the shelter is going well. We haven’t had a lot of kids lately but these things ebb and flow, and there are some possibilities for different and additional work for me coming up that I’m pretty excited about. I really do love my job.

I’ve spent the last few months watching at least one movie every day, which has been a pretty sedate pace for me, but which has made me feel accomplished. I think my record for films in a year is around 440 and I won’t beat that, but I am over 400. It’s been a good year for movies.

Christmas came and went fairly uneventfully for me. We had our Roomie Christmas, which I think went well. This year was the 11th year we’ve done it, which is hard to imagine. It was really good to see everyone. We ordered take-out instead of making a big meal and I think it was the best possible decision. I got some pretty wonderful presents. Christmas Eve I spent with a friend. There was great food (bacon-wrapped pork, which was… as delicious as it sounds), drinking, and festive Muppets, so I would call it a success. I spent the night and then headed home in the afternoon for work. There were no kids so it was just a few hours, but at least it was double time?

David and the Superhero have been running around like decapitated chickens for the whole holiday season doing family things. I think I am feeling adrift and disconnected by how crazy everything has been, and I’m looking forward to resuming our pretty predictable pace soon. I am a puppy of habit above all.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I have many thoughts on the new year and the election and trauma and all kinds of things. I’ll experiment and see how this goes. Maybe you’ll hear from me tomorrow, or maybe it’ll be another 3 months. Life is full of mysteries.

 

Exciting 2016 Thoughts: Part 1

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I wrote my first check yesterday dated 2016. It was to the Boy Scouts so that they would take away our Christmas tree. I wondered to myself if I was supposed to support the Boy Scouts. Have they come around yet? I tried to remember if they have officially changed policy on gay scout leaders or if it was only some troops, and remembered they still don’t allow atheists (because who knows what an atheist would teach your kid in the tent). I looked at where this particular troop met, took note of the church. I was almost certain that they did not allow gay scout leaders.

But I wrote the check anyway, because sometimes you just need to get rid of your Christmas tree. And because it is not uncommon for my pragmatism to win out over my ideals. I guess we all do the best we can.

I am going into this year thinking a lot about what the best I can do means. Yet again, I am faced with a year of a lot of changes. In a couple of months I will know if this is the year that I start grad school (all kind thoughts are much appreciated). In 6 months I will have graduated with my BA and I will be moving in with David and the Superhero for the foreseeable future. I will need to start looking for a grown-up job of some kind. Basically this undergrad stuff has been fun, but I’m moving back into adulting.

After kicking around many exciting and probably ridiculous ideas for this blog over the next year, I’ve decided to try to stick to something kind-of basic. I am going to try to write every week a personal entry. I have no idea what they’ll all be about. Maybe I’ll write about a movie that really got to me (I really need to practice writing about movies) or I’ll write about a concept I’m wrestling with. Maybe I’ll write about job hunting or how much I love my classes or how taking statistics has shown me the light and I’ve suddenly realized I want to do nothing but math for the rest of my life (this seems unlikely).

The point is that this year is going to be a year of a lot of change. While I have typically written personally, I have not practiced much with the idea of writing my story for public consumption as it happens rather than after the fact. I have no idea how it’ll go, maybe it’ll be a mess, but that is my plan. I will continue to post my Baby Me entries (so you can all see how much better I really have gotten) and I will also post one entry about something else.

I am also going to try to include more pictures i my entries because even though I passionately hate putting pictures in, I hear people like them. So look, here is a picture of the graveyard looking super pretty today when I went out for a walk.

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I totally have a general list of other plans for 2016, obviously. I do love a clean slate. And I want to talk about how I feel I did on my goals last year. But all of that can wait for my next entry.

In the meantime I will just wait for the check to clear and prepare for another year of confusing ethical monetary questions. Bring on 2016.

Taking a Very Brief Break!

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Hello, readers!

You may have noticed I have been a bit spotty the last month or so, and that this last week I suddenly dropped off altogether. We are coming into the final stretch of my school for the quarter and I have to admit that I have just been quite overwhelmed with all of the homework and things.

Also, this is my birthday weekend, so I’ve had that excitement to schedule in on top of everything else (although that is at least the good kind of excitement).

The point is that I have decided to throw up my hands for a week or two and admit that I need to take a break while I finish strong for the season on my school. I’ve been feeling so guilty about letting my extra stuff slip and not being on top of everything, but the truth is that I think it is important to acknowledge when I need to put more energy into a single place for a short time.

So I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, with thoughts on the quarter completed and possibly even new ideas for the new quarter. I’m toying with a few things.

See you soon!

Meg

Flamingos and Awkward Social Interactions

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Sometimes situations come up in life which you just do not feel like you have been adequately trained to cope with. Today I came home and found my neighbor gardening against my will.

Perhaps a bit of backstory is in order. My aunt and uncle have allowed me to move into the house that they own. Several times before I moved in, they expressed concern to me about the next door neighbor. They explained to me that she would seem friendly but that I would probably  be better off not engaging if possible. Apparently  her neighborly friendliness has extended to peering through windows and making late night phone calls to them about the goings on next door, among other weird things. They did mention her doing yard work on the property as well, although it didn’t really occur to me that this would be a primary problem.

Since moving in I have had a few brief conversations with her. She is a middle aged woman and she immediately sets off that antennae in the back of my head. You know, the one that says “something is profoundly off with this person and this conversation and most likely your best bet is to back away slowly.” I feel I should also mention for the sake of it that she lives in a brilliant purple home with yellow trim and, more importantly, her entire front and backyard appear to consist of nothing but mounts of dirt planted with dozens of pink plastic flamingos. There are a few remains of sunflowers as well so it’s possible that during the not fall season more flowers come out but… there’s no grass and right now it just looks like it’s sprouting tacky pink flamingos everywhere.

So today I come home and in my front yard is a bucket and she is in my front yard pulling weeds on the side. I am rather baffled, to be honest. I’ve never had to tell someone, “please, I would really appreciate it if you would stop gardening immediately. You know you’re not supposed to be doing this.” She approached my car and, standing between me and my door, engaged me in conversation about school, something about her husband (who I have literally never seen and slightly question the existence of). After a minute or two she motions to her gardening supplies and says she “knows she’s not supposed to but she just thought maybe pulling a few weeds…” I was like “Yeahhhhhh but probably you shouldn’t. Given that you know they don’t want you to do that.” She proceeded to go on a bizarre rant about what wonderful people my aunt and uncle are and how they should let people do things for them. I couldn’t very well follow with “but apparently your doing things for them turns into trespassing and insane midnight phone calls…” so I settled for “Yes, they’re great and yet they really don’t want you to do that so probably you should not do that.” She agreed she would stop, I eventually tore myself away and into the house I went.

As I was doing homework, I continued to hear noise outside and once I thought I heard a lawn mower but it stopped after a minute and I had to get everything done before class so I just ignored it. As I walked out the door for class, I glanced over in time to see her whisking into the garage and to see a lawn mower sitting on my lawn. One strip had been mowed. Why does she even own a lawn mower? She doesn’t grow grass! She only grows flamingos! I was late to class so I had to run. When I came home tonight my lawn was mowed and the neighbor and the mower were nowhere to be seen.

David thinks I’ve stumbled unwittingly into a murder mystery and I’m going to be buried with the flamingos (could this explain the absence of husband?). I realize that in general someone doing your yardwork seems like a weird thing to be perplexed about but that’s part what makes it so perplexing. I can’t just allow her to continue, my aunt and uncle have made their wishes very clear. And yet the awkwardness of having to perpetually tell an insane person to stop doing lawn work, knowing she will do it behind my back when I leave (or even when I close the door apparently) makes me want to die. Maybe a flamingo grave marker is in my future after all.

Is Being Calming Good?

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This week in my class, someone said that they should always sit next to me so that I could keep them calm. This has been a recurring theme in my fairly brief school career – people saying or implying that I have a calming energy or something like that. I’ve always been a bit thrown by it because I feel like if you were to ask my closest friends to describe me, “calming” wouldn’t even make the top ten list of adjectives (am I wrong, friends?). But it comes up repeatedly in a school setting, in acquaintance sorts of relationships and I’ve been wondering about that and thinking it over.

You see, part of me is pretty good with that. I mean, calming is not a terrible thing to be. I am slowly uncovering things I am passionate about, things I want to do with my life and one of those things is that I really want to be a bridge. I want to be able to facilitate better communication, to discover better means of communication, between really polarized sides (perhaps specifically things like evangelical and… everyone in the world they’re panicked by) and being calming in a situation like that is not bad. It’s probably even a good opening trait to have.

Still, it nags at me and I realized that I’m afraid it’s because I’m conditioned to do it. I’m afraid that calming is what I do when I’m not being brave, that calming is what I am when I am being pleasing and placating. My father likes calm. My whole life I was rewarded when I was calm and I was withheld from if I was too much, if I was too excited, too angry, too hurt, too emotional. I am afraid that calming is how I learned to not be like my mother, that it is how I fought my way to the top of my imaginary mountain where I could call out quietly that I was different.

In my heart I am a mess of impulses. I want to be fierce and strong and brave and I still don’t know what that looks like for me. I believe it can look a thousand different ways but what does it look like for me to be a fierce woman? I want to be all of those things but I also desperately want to be liked, I want approval, I want validation. My neverending sense of need is not so neverending as it was when I was a baffled adolescent but I sometimes still feel like it is a hole I could trip into if I do not watch my step. And perhaps what I’m most afraid of is that the people who know me best do not tend to tell me that I’m calming, but the people who I don’t yet trust do. I’m afraid that implies that it is a front, I’m afraid that shows that it is something I do to make people like me, something I do to keep the volume low, to keep my own sense of safety high, something I do that shows I still navigate as Daddy’s Girl as a default way to placate the world around me. I’m afraid that it’s just proof I’m still afraid.

Things I Realized While My Phone Was Broken

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So on Wednesday night as I was cuddling and watching The Good Wife, I was attempting to text my friend to tell her that Magic Mike was really quite excellent (note for anyone who’s curious – Magic Mike was really quite excellent) and every time I tried to go into her texting thread the screen went weird and started getting brighter and brighter…. I backed out and tried another thread and this didn’t seem to happen. I removed my texting program and reinstalled it. This time every time I went into any thread and opened my phone to my keyboard (yes, I refuse to have any phone with touchscreen only, I find typing on them awful) the same thing happened. Then suddenly it wouldn’t stop and then it fuzzed and then there were five or six white lines on black on my screen and then… nothing. So that’s the story of how my phone died and it was fairly traumatic. Poor phone. It was particularly odd as I had done nothing to it, no water, it hadn’t been dropped, I was just sitting there attempting to text. Sigh.

Some of you may not know that I really love my phone. I mean, not the specific model of phone? I am not one of those people who must have the latest one or anything, but just having a data device on me at pretty much all times is very important to me. Yesterday my amazing friend who is the account holder on my account figured everything out and a new phone was shipping to me, set to arrive by today. However. That left me with quite a bit of time without a phone.

I know that there are a number of people who are very concerned about the downfall of civilization happening while we are all busy staring at the tiny screens in our hand, not noticing because we’re busy texting our friends about Magic Mike. I am not interested in arguing that point because I find it obnoxious and boring and pointless. What I found interesting was what I realized having a phone has given me, which is a great deal more freedom.

This may come as a shock to everyone but I am a fairly anxious person. I spent a good part of my growing up afraid of things happening to me, I spent a lot of my life never doing much of anything. I was always extremely nervous to drive places I didn’t know. Stepping out of my comfort zone has, until not too long ago, been a challenge for me. I’m not going to say that my cell phone is what made me do that but I am going to say that having my cell phone has allowed me to do it a lot more bravely. Some of the reasons are practical. For example, I am essentially never nervous about driving someplace I don’t know anymore because I’m not worried about getting lost. I have GPS in my hand, I know I can find where I need to be. That may not sound like a big deal but it has revolutionized my life. It also means that I am less neurotic about planning. When I went to go pick David up from work the other day and did not have my phone, I was very freaked out. I had to go steal wifi from Starbucks so I could send him an email telling him I was going to be late and then I spent the entire time freaked out because what if he didn’t get it, what if someone else had taken him home, what if we missed each other somehow, how would he get in touch with me, what would we do? This is not actually a crisis situation but it is the sort of stupid thing that sends me into a ridiculous panic mode because things are not planned and set like they need to be. I’m able to be more flexible when I know that I will know as soon as the plans change, when I know I won’t be left out of the loop.

But there is another and more important way that my phone makes me braver – it means I am connected to the people who make me feel safe. If I am going on an internet date, no matter how sketchy or safe, at least David and Julie definitely know where I am. I am probably actively messaging them right before I meet the person and, depending on how badly the date goes, possibly during. I know that if I need someone I can make a call. It’s not so much about knowing I can call 911, although there is a certain amount of comfort in that as well. It is primarily about knowing that the people who make me feel safe are in some way right there with me. That makes me feel like I can do more, like I can take more chances and be bolder. I’m not sure I can explain what that means in my life or how much better it makes me feel about so many things.

I feel like we spend a lot of time talking about the evils of technology and it’s a conversation I tend to have little patience for. After two days “disconnected” I wanted to throw in my two cents in not about how nice it was to smell flowers or see children playing or whatever people claim to see but about how much better my life is because of my technology. I am very, very grateful.

Robin Williams and Celebrity Death

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As I’m sure anyone who has been in contact with the world for the past few days knows, Robin Williams died on Monday of apparent suicide. It’s a very sad thing and I hope he’s found some peace. I’ve been surprised by the intensity of the outpouring of grief around his death. Many people I know were extremely affected by it and have experienced a great deal of sadness. I was not particularly. Although I have a few Robin Williams movies I loved from when I was a child, I didn’t feel that connection with him. Still, I feel a general sadness for a life wasted and the sadness of others. 

What I wanted to talk about however is a phenomenon I’ve noticed as part of the reactions. It’s one I’ve seen not only in this particular instance but in almost every case of celebrity death and despite the numerous articles and blogs I’ve seen around the various facets of celebrity, I haven’t recently seen anything around this so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring here. The phenomenon is pretty simple and seems to be an attempt to put yourself above those who are hurt by this event. There’s the “I obviously feel badly for his friends and family but it hasn’t affected me personally.” Or the more hard line “I’ve never been impacted by a celebrity dying, I just can’t understand why someone would be.” 

I’ve seen these sentiments expressed in various ways and I think they represent something rather cold and cruel in our society, something that genuinely bothers me. This desire to show that you are somehow better than those who are wounded. Look, I think there are things that can probably be said about “TMZ culture” or however you’d like to phrase it. Maybe. I don’t care that much, to be honest. I think the danger of it is overstated and we’d do better to stop focusing on the evils of celebrity and start focusing on more important things. But when celebrities die, particularly people who have been involved in forms of art for many years, and particularly when the death is unexpected, that is not the same. 

It does not make you a superior person to not be sad because someone has died. It also doesn’t make you a worse person. Your emotional responses to the death of someone you don’t know (or someone you do know) do not define whether you are a decent human being. But judging others for expressing the impact that someone’s life had on their own might. 

I did not personally have that connection with Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. But when I saw the trailer for the new Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie? I still got a lump in my throat. I don’t actually know how long it’ll take me to accept that he’s gone. I have plans with my bestie to watch the new Roger Ebert documentary and when we do we have solemnly agreed that we will both cry like children. Because we loved him, because he meant something to us. The day I found out Roger Ebert died, I sat on my couch and sobbed for over an hour. I am tearing up right now thinking about it. This is the man who in many ways taught me how to love film, not just critically but joyfully. I still want to check his website every week. I can’t count how many movies I catch myself thinking “I wonder what Ebert thou… oh.” 

There will be others. It’s a handful compared to the number of actors in Hollywood but there will be others whose deaths will leave a blank space for me, who will be a loss for me, as Robin Williams is to so many right now. I think that is a beautiful, amazing thing. Isn’t the best thing about art that we can share it and it becomes part of us, that it sometimes actually changes us? And part of that is accepting loss and grief, just like with any relationship.

I have no judgment for those who were not affected by this death. I wish nothing but hope and healing and peace for those who were. I hope for peace for his family. I hope that this can help spur productive discussion about depression and how dangerous it can be. But you are not a better person if you were not touched by this. If there’s nothing kind for you to say, please just don’t. It really is okay to just shut up. 

Privilege In New Places

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I’ve been thinking about privilege again. I spend a lot of time thinking about power and privilege and what is used against me and what I use against others, knowingly or unknowingly. I’m trying to become more aware, I’m trying to become more present. I want to know the power I have so I’m not using it as a club, so I’m not judging or waving it around unfairly. Sometimes I realize new places that it’s coming from and then I have to think about it for a while. This week I’ve been thinking about something new.

I get frustrated with people for not pushing harder, for not questioning the reality they live in. I don’t understand how they can be satisfied with the status quo, why they are not only content to stay comfortable but will actively fight to keep someone from challenging them. It took me years to fight my way out of confusion and abuse and the constant lies I was told and I cannot understand why other people don’t seem to try harder. What I’m trying to remember is that I really don’t know what allowed me to do that. I have no idea what has driven me for almost as long as I can remember to push forward, to try and figure out why things felt wrong. For most of that time it got me in trouble, for a huge part of that time it caused me a tremendous amount of pain. And yet for some reason I believed, deeply and with all my heart, that the only way to cope was to question all of this, I believed that that what was happening to me and around me was somehow wrong. I kept picking and picking at everything, kept bringing things up, kept tearing at the fabric of all of it. I could not let it go. As far as I can tell, no one else in my family has this drive. My brothers have started to move forward on some of this but I don’t know if it was partly my pushing that led them in this direction. My parents, their families, everyone seems happy to believe in what they were raised to believe. I don’t know why I wasn’t.

This is a privilege. After all, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t earn it and yet I would not be where I am today, happier than I have ever been and working towards the future I want, without it. That’s not to say I didn’t work, that’s not to say it wasn’t incredibly hard. That’s the funny thing about privilege. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work for something, it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. But it does mean that you may have gotten a leg up that someone else didn’t have. This drive shaped my worldview, ultimately it changed everything for me. But not everyone has it. People get to where they’re going in a lot of different ways. It’s not my job to tell them (or think quietly to myself) that they should be doing it a different way. Not everyone got what I got, just like there’s a lot that I didn’t get. We get to play to our strengths if we’re lucky. I’ve been so lucky. I just want to make sure I don’t take it for granted.

Confessions and Thoughts

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I don’t feel like I was entirely honest in my last non Baby Me blog post and I want to talk about why, because a big part of this project for me (sidenote: that last blog post was my ONE HUNDREDTH POST on this blog, how ridiculous is that?) is trying to be transparent and honest in a way that is helpful and good for me and hopefully for those around me.

I wasn’t trying to be dishonest, although I didn’t feel totally comfortable with what I was writing. See, here’s what actually happened. I wrote that thing and I sent my message back to my aunt (who did respond the next day but to be honest, that’s neither here nor there. I’ll just say it was fine, boundaries are established) and then I was really sad. I felt threatened and angry and I really struggle with being angry. Later that night David cuddled me before bed and I cried and tried to explain that this felt unfair to me. That I have worked so hard to get to a place in my life where I don’t have to constantly be careful, to constantly feel that sense of looking over my shoulder and here this woman who means absolutely nothing to me can come into my life and make me feel bad and make me feel frightened. Not because I think I’m doing anything wrong but because I forgot what being careful felt like. It was hard for a few hours there and I didn’t talk about that; I tried to make it something else.

I want to talk about why I didn’t talk about that because I feel like that’s important. See, I really want to be better. Some days it seems like the stakes are increasingly high and I worry about what happens if I am not getting better. I feel like I need to be able to show proof of my progress, like I need to have something to hold up to show I am a maturing adult even when, maybe especially when, things suck. I mean, I’ve done a lot to get here. I made a lot of choices and I believe they were right but there are still days I feel like I have to prove it. I walked away from my family, my faith, my entire life. I built something from the ground up and according to every single thing I was taught my whole life, I’m heading straight to hell now. And even though I don’t believe in hell anymore, except in those weird moments where programming kicks in, even though I believe that I have done the best I can, that pretty much every choice I’ve made has been the one I’ve needed to make for my health and sanity… it still feels like the stakes are high and it’s on me to prove that it was worth it.

The primary way that I find to prove that it was all worth it is to tell a story. Not a lie, just a story. It’s not that what I’m saying isn’t true; everything I said in the last entry was true. It was just a nicer version of the truth. It was the easy part. It’s the narrative that gives a moral to the problem, that makes sense of what’s happening. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it does, but not always. Sometimes there is a moral and a lesson but it doesn’t show up till way down the line. Sometimes I can’t find one at all. Sometimes it just hurts and I need to cry for a while and get it out of my system. Someday I will learn that none of those things mean that what I have been through or fought for is less meaningful.

I just really love a story and I want mine to be a good one. But I don’t know what the lesson from all this is right now. I don’t know what all the ripples with my family will be or how wide they might spread. I am still surprised by things and sometimes those things are upsetting and unexpectedly painful. And I don’t need to pretend to be pragmatically okay with the lessons I learn from that. It’s okay to be sad for a while before moving forward. One doesn’t negate the other. Someday I’ll be able to remember that. Sometimes the stories I tell are intended to clarify things for myself or for the people I’m explaining to but sometimes I sacrifice important details for the sake of clarity. My life isn’t a movie and it doesn’t really work to try and boil it down to the salient plot points. I just hope that in the middle of all the mess it can still be a story worth telling.

Finding Home

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I do not know what I thought home would look like but it wasn’t like this.

If you had given me a million storyboard options, I would never have been able to draw this out. I had no tools, no vision, no concept of something like this. Long nights, tangled bodies, drinking, laughing, crying, talking, playing and so little guilt, so little shame. We bring what we bring on our backs but no one is putting it on me. I can look you in the eyes.

My brother asked me yesterday what grace was, what was this concept that I claimed had been so cruelly and abusively taught to me and I told him it was a light, not a shroud. I told him I did not believe that God had anything to do with it but that in the moment when I sit in front of you and I tell you that I am fucked up and manipulative and I did this thing to you and you tell me that you love me, that is grace. It is sharp and painful and stings like a whip and it heals and grows something new in me. I told him that grace is not about brushing something away, it is about seeing everything and loving it as fiercely and bravely as you can.

It turns out that home is also about this, about loving each other fiercely and bravely and calmly. I used to dream of feeling safe but I only dreamed of it in spaces. Here I might be able to feel safe emotionally, here physically, here sexually. Because I was taught boundaries and lines and laws you must not cross, blank spaces and emotional minefields. And yet here we are. Home is running around half naked mixing drinks and making My Little Pony jokes, running away screaming from tickling and crazy faces. Home is you kissing each other while cuddling me and you are very beautiful and I am very safe and very happy.

I am 7, I am 19, I am 30. I am all the ages I have ever been and I am growing up. For the first time I know what I want to build. Home was worth waiting for.